December 03, 2015

Seeking Efforts to Enhance Campus Diversity

Dear SLU Faculty and Staff,

In recent weeks, universities across the country have found themselves responding to student protests grounded in long-standing frustration and anger about racial inequity. Many young people are hurt and shaken by the cruelty and slights they experience on and off their campuses. Demonstrations abound, and student aims are similar - to embrace diversity and make our colleges more welcoming, representative, inclusive and just communities.

At this time in history, the passionate idealism of youth, the crucial role that American campuses play as a public forum, and the intellectual tensions that are constitutive of democracy - all are combining in an important message from young people. Sixty years after Rosa Parks sparked the modern civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat, they wonder, "How much longer must we wait for complete inclusion?" In a country working to fully achieve the cherished ideals upon which it was founded, they ask, like many Americans before them, "What more must we do to make equal treatment a reality?"

Last year, our community and our campus experienced much of the turmoil that is so widespread today. Rather than assume a defensive, adversarial approach, we directly engaged protesters and observed the hunger for healing and for meaningful progress. The disruption we experienced focused our attention and led to important, albeit at times difficult, conversations. And by listening to one another - really listening with empathy and understanding - we grew as individuals, as a university community and as leaders in the St. Louis region.

While this has been a quieter year for us at SLU, we must not allow ourselves to settle comfortably back into old routines, relinquishing involvement and actions on diversity and equity to others. Our mission states that Saint Louis University:

  • Welcomes students, faculty and staff from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds and beliefs, and creates a sense of community that facilitates their development as men and women for others.
  • Nurtures within its community an understanding of and commitment to the promotion of faith and justice in the spirit of the Gospels. 

The challenges we face in fully accomplishing our mission are formidable, but not undefeatable. All of us, however, must engage in a sustained effort to achieve meaningful change throughout the organization. And that starts with each of us.

I am therefore, asking that every department at SLU hold a discussion and identify at least one action its members will undertake to make the University more welcoming and inclusive for all. I am asking that this conversation be held and the results submitted by January 31, 2016.

Each department should email future action items to the Office for Diversity and Community Engagement at If your department has already implemented particularly successful practices, please forward one or two of them as well.

Departments' current and future actions will be compiled and posted online so that they can be shared with the entire SLU community, allowing us to learn from each other and, through follow-up, attempt to ascertain the degree of success various initiatives bring.

In the meantime let us keep praying, talking and working together for a better SLU.

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.

cc: All SLU Students

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